The dynamics of the world talc industry are changing. New suppliers are entering the international market place and upsetting the status quo.
For many years, the global talc industry has been dominated by Chinese production, with production of 1.8Mt and exports of 0.7Mt in 2014. In terms of corporate control, four out of the ten leading talc producers worldwide are based in China. However, the picture is not entirely rosy as Chinese output and exports have fallen by 10% over the past two years. Producers in China have suffered from dwindling reserves of high-whiteness talc and competition from alternative lower-cost sources of talc.
Step up Pakistan, which has emerged as the second-largest supplier of talc to international markets since 2012. Shipments, including large quantities of crude talc mined in Afghanistan and milled in Pakistan prior to export, rose from 64,000t to nearly 400,000t between 2010 and 2013. Production in Afghanistan is rising, and in 2015 the country could become the fifth largest producer worldwide.
World talc demand is forecast to increase over the next five years by 2.3%py. Growth will be led by the plastics industry, with demand also increasing in coatings, food processing and technical ceramics markets. These areas of growth will more than offset the decline in demand seen in the paper sector.
Talc is used in polypropylene, the use of which is growing in automotive vehicles in order to reduce vehicle weight. This is a double bonus for talc, as its intensity of use is also rising as talc imparts the mechanical properties needed to meet lightweighting requirements such as strength and stiffness, amongst others. The average talc content of a light EU automobile more than doubled between 2006 and 2014.
Leading talc producers are focusing on the production of speciality micronised grades for use in plastics compounding, reflecting the changing patterns of demand. Imerys Talc’s expansion at Timmins in Canada in 2014/15 represents the first regional production of high-brightness, high-lamellar micronised talc, replacing imports traditionally from China and more recently, primarily from Pakistan.
The largest end use for talc has traditionally been in the paper sector, and in 2013 it still was. However, Asian papermakers are following trends seen in industrialised countries and talc faces substitution from granular and precipitated calcium carbonate in filling and coating markets. One bright spot is that demand for talc is growing in pitch control, as paper recycling rates improve. By 2019, plastics will have overtaken paper as the largest consuming sector for talc worldwide.
The 2015 edition of Roskill’s Talc report provides an in-depth look at trends in the supply of talc and its markets. The report profiles more than 100 producers of talc minerals and potential entrants to the industry in 53 countries. It describes end-uses for talc and discusses how changes within these markets are affecting the pattern of talc consumption. Trends in future demand, international trade flows and talc prices are also analysed, to provide a comprehensive review of the talc market and its prospects.